Communities across rural England are set to benefit from an extra £110 million in local authority funding to support rural business and community groups, it has been announced today (7 April).
Eligible local authorities in England will receive the funding, which they can invest in initiatives such as farm diversification, projects to boost rural tourism, and community infrastructure projects including electric vehicle charging stations. The funding will also help people start up local businesses to supercharge growth and create employment opportunities for rural areas.
The confirmed allocations are spread right across the country, including over £5 million for Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly, £3m for Cambridgeshire and Peterborough, over £3 million for North of Tyne, over £2.5 million for West Yorkshire, £2.5 million for Shropshire and almost £1 million for Cheshire East.
The Rural England Prosperity Fund is a rural top-up to the UK Shared Prosperity Fund which is £2.6 billion of new funding for local investment to support levelling up across the UK. It marks a change from previous bureaucratic and fragmented EU funds, allowing England to take back control of its own growth investment and giving local leaders a greater say in where funding is best spent.
Environment Secretary Thérèse Coffey said:
Driving investment in rural areas is a vital part of our vision for levelling up the country. The new Rural Prosperity Fund replaces the bureaucratic EU funding system - allowing us to work closely with local leaders to direct funding where it is most needed to close the rural productivity gap, create job opportunities and protect the English countryside.
This confirmed spending will allow local authorities to deliver on their plans to level up businesses and communities in rural areas from today, in line with their residents’ priorities.
Country Land and Business President Mark Tufnell said:
“The rural economy is 19% less productive than the national average, but reducing this gap could add up to £43 billion to the economy. This funding is an important step in unlocking the vast potential of rural businesses, and will give startups as well as existing enterprises the support they need to grow.
We strongly encourage Local Authorities to work closely with rural entrepreneurs to maximise the opportunities the Rural England Prosperity Fund presents, identifying every possible opportunity to generate economic growth – creating good jobs and strengthening our communities in the process.
Across rural England, the money will be spent on two key areas:
Communities and place: projects to improve community facilities such as green spaces and boost access to arts and culture to grow local tourism economies.
Supporting local business: projects to support agricultural businesses looking to expand their remit, and rural businesses looking to launch or grow their products and services.
Rural England Prosperity Fund allocates £110 million between 2023 and 2025. Defra is in contact with each of the eligible local authorities to confirm their allocated funding, and they can begin to deliver on their plans over the coming weeks.
The announcement today follows the ‘Delivering for Rural England’ rural proofing report, which set out how rural challenges and opportunities will be at the heart the government’s approach to levelling up. The government is committed to promoting high-quality digital infrastructure and is already delivering major upgrades through the Shared Rural Network and Project Gigabit. Considerable progress has already been made, for example in improving connectivity with 30% of rural premises now having access to gigabit-capable connections compared with 19% in January 2021.